Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Overwhelming Bigness of Everything-

Sometime in the recent past I was watching No Reservations. Anthony Bourdain was in China, extolling the virtues of the roast duck cooked by a man who had been roasting duck since childhood. If I recall correctly, he inherited the roast duck business he ran from his father. Anyway, Anthony was going on and on about how much a man who had been roasting ducks for thirty years would know about roasting duck. How good and succulent and wonderful this particular duck was apt to be.

Thirty years, roasting duck. That would certainly broach the subject of expertise as Malcom Gladwell presented it in Outliers. In that book Gladwell presented the idea of 10,000 hours as the level of time committed to a practice in order to be an expert, a master. Thirty years of roasting duck every day. Yep, I would grant that duck man was an expert on the roasting of ducks.

As I have related before in this blog and some of my others, in my very early youth I developed a passion for knowledge. A passion developed before I realized the challenge of knowing everything. I never lost that passion, but often ran up against the degree to which things were inter-related. A question best answered in psychology would also impinge on aspects of sociology, and require input from archaeology and anthropology and political science.

Overwhelming. I have had periods of despair and depression as a consequence of being so overwhelmed. I suspect I have crossed the borders of madness more than once in my life. I have also touched on the ecstasy of deep intuitive insight. I have know the richness of pursuing a thought or idea through several channels of inter-connectedness to reach a deep understanding.

To choose any one discipline and plumb its depths would be a good thing. A wonderful thing. Many people do so, and some taste from more than one such well. Yet, to so choose is to roast ducks for thirty years. Not a bad thing, especially if you really like duck. Still, there are so many wells and their many more inter-connections. Roasted duck, even masterfully roasted duck, is much better with a variety of side dishes.

And a good wine or beer. Doh! Now we have another discipline; zymurgy. That relates to chemistry and biology and botany, and the many social and economic aspects of beer and wine. They sure do taste good, though.

Especially with roast duck. Mmmm!

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Context of our beliefs-

When I was very young the Universe was believed to exist in a stable steady state. Like star stuff floating in a vacuous sea, everything remained pretty much where it was just a short time ago. Oh, there were relative motions, but for the most part it was not going anywhere or doing anything.

At least, that was pretty much what I recall being taught when the matter was approached at all. However, behind that theory was the growing acceptance of an expanding universe. Things were moving away from each other, as if all that is was blown away from some central point.

Of course, a few centuries before that the universe was much smaller. It was made up of various things, such as concentric spheres or a disk floating on the sea. For some it was no more substantive than dreams or illusions, and for others it is turtles all the way down. The universe, or at least how humans perceive it, has changed a great deal.

The universe of my childhood was going to simply cool down and die a very cold death. An expanding universe could die similarly, but if enough matter exists it could stop expanding and eventually collapse into a Gnab Gib. That's Big Bang backwards. OK. I agree it is dumb. However, being over 45 years old I am required to make dumb jokes from time to time. It's the law.

This is all dross and duck feathers to some fundamentalist believers of several major faiths. The universe was created and so-called science is just wrong. For other believers the seeming inconsistency between the universe of science and the universe of faith has to be compensated for in some manner. They may put their divergent beliefs in different compartments in their minds, taking out the one they need depending on what they must think and talk about at any given moment. They may simply appeal to "mystery," and not look too deeply.

I tend to believe that most of us assume that the universe is actually there, in some form. We bump up against it, have our senses stimulated, and draw conclusions. Many of us recognize that there are others similar to ourselves, and we have conversations and sex and babies and ideas and television shows in common with these others. The context of our bumping into each other frames a lot of our beliefs.

I haven't had a conversation with anyone who really believes that the universe is not there. I have had some interesting discussions with people who have a far different perspective on the nature of reality, one or two of whom I was sitting on (in the course of doing my job) while they received the medications that would purportedly aid them in managing their perspectives better. Never with anyone who really believed that they and the universe did not exist.

What would they talk about, anyway? And why? After all, I am not really there in that context. How interesting could I be? Why should they listen, and with what?

In the course of my bumping up against the universe I have come to some conclusions. One such conclusion led to my conversion to the Christian faith. I believe that the God of the Bible is the one true God, a belief I adopted as an aspect of my conversion. I am convinced that the only being in (and transcending) the universe who really knows what is True is that one God.

He has the necessary perspective. The rest of us can learn some pretty cool stuff, bumping around in His creation. We can often draw conclusions from these experiences that are more or less true. We can share these as we bump up against others, and refine our thoughts and ideas and the things we imagine. However, none of us can comprehensively comprehend the whole of what is quite the way God can.

The scope of my own ignorance and propensity for error causes me to grant people a lot of slack in what they say they believe and how they say it. I believe that I am a sinner, that I fail to meet even my own standards of belief and actions, much less the standards established by God as revealed in the Bible. I am an inadequate human being. However, God has provided a sacrifice in Jesus Christ sufficient to make up for those deficiencies, and I believe in the sufficiency of that sacrifice. In Jesus I am saved from the consequences of my sin, my rebellion against God.

I don't know everything. I don't even know a lot. However, if what I just said touched something within you, and you feel a need for the sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice, seek out a believer to bump up against you, and give you a new context for your beliefs. Open yourself to God directing your experiences.

If what I said does not spark some interest, then continue your own path of bumping up against the universe. The universe you experience is the context of your beliefs.

To believe is to choose. Choose wisely. Choose well.